Africa in the Old Testament, to many Old Testament readers, in Africa as well as outside, this topic may sound rather exotic. Few have thought of the idea that the ancient texts of the Old Testament have anything to say about Africa. However, to other readers, mainly in Africa or in the African diaspora, this topic touches existential questions, the place of Africa in the Old Testament is related to their identity as well as their history. Accordingly, whether the topic is seen as exotic or existential, depends on the eyes that see. The present essay acknowledges this and takes sides, it is consciously written from the perspective that a closer study of what the ancient texts of the Old Testament say about Africa is of importance for its contemporary African readers.
The presentation and discussion of the topic Africa in the Old Testament will be done in three steps. First, an introductory section, which aims to clarify some definitions and the background and material of this enterprise. Then follows the major section, which makes a textual survey of how some African nations and even some African individuals are portrayed throughout the Old Testament. And finally, a brief summary of the findings, noting some hermeneutical questions.
Let us start with a definition of the two terms “Old Testament” and “Africa.” First, while the term “Old Testament” may seem relatively unproblematic (except to those who would prefer the designation “Hebrew Bible, ” though this is seldom used in Africa), referring in the minds of most scholars to the Masoretic canon, this understanding is not without problems, as no less than two broader canons, competing with the Masoretic one, have their background in Africa: The Alexandrian and the Ethiopian. Just what constitutes the Old Testament, has been problematised, and some have argued that African translations of the Old Testament and hence also African interpretations of the Old Testament should follow the broader African canons (Kealy 1979: 13–26). I raise this concern, but will not develop it. My focus is on the second term, “Africa.” The term “Africa” usually designates the African continent. But this understanding is not